Governor Pete Ricketts and a host of State Officials said flooding emergency declarations have been issued by 54 Nebraska Counties and 4 Indian tribes so far. Water continues at record levels, with the Missouri River at four feet above flood stage, the Platte breaking the previous flood record by nearly two feet, and the Elkhorn river breaking its previous record by 5.5 feet. 22 shelters have housed over 1,200 people, 300 have been rescued by helicopter and boat, and two persons are confirmed dead with several others still missing.
Authorities say 52-year-old Aleido Rojas Galan of Norfolk died Friday night in southwestern Iowa. Officials say Galan and two others were in a vehicle that drove around a barricade and was swept away. The other two men survived.
On Thursday, 50-year-old James Wilke of Columbus died when a bridge collapsed as he used a tractor to try and reach stranded motorists.
A Norfolk man was seen on top of his flooded car late Thursday before being swept away. Water also swept away a man after a dam collapse near Spencer. Both men are still missing.
In Sunday’s briefing, State Emergency management Assistant Director Brian Tuma said the sheer size and magnitude of the disaster is just now beginning to come into focus. Tuma said the Federal Emergency management Agency will be asked to issue an Expedited Disaster declaration, to make funding and other resources available as quickly as possible.
The National Guard is preparing to assign 84 of its soldiers to highway traffic duty, to allow the State Patrol and Department of Transportation to do their work more efficiently.
State Patrol Superintendent Colonel John Bolduc siad his troopers have been covering incidents from the extreme southeast corner of the State to the South Dakota border.
Director of Agriculture Steve Wellman said the damage to farms and ranches is already in the millions and might well reach one billion dollars. He added the impact will go far beyond the cleanup stage because of the effects and delays on spring planting. “There will be prevented plantings, delays in preparation for planting, additional expenses of cleaning the debris, accessing the fields, and probably difficulties in just getting the inputs and the supplies.”
State Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis said his employees are working to get highways open as soon as they can, but also have to wait until they’re declared safe. “We’ve got about a thousand D-O-T staff out there today, working to clear roads and assess their damage.” Schneweis said so far 14 bridges are known to be out, and those highways are going to be closed for significant periods of time. “Those aren’t bridges that are going to be put up tomorrow” he said. “We’re going to have to have a longer term plan to get those open.” Schneweis said the State has secured three temporary bridges that will be put in place as soon as possible, but significant work will have to go into making sure highways are safe and repairing damage.
Governor Pete Ricketts thanked and complimented all the emergency management personnel and volunteers who have been putting in hours to help others. “We will get through this together” said the Governor. “Nebraskans have a strong spirit, and it’s one of the things I’m continually impressed and amazed by. The attitude of Nebraskans is ‘we will get through this together’.”
INDIVIDUAL COUNTIES JUST BEGINNING TO REPORT
Flooding in Nebraska has badly damaged up to 500 houses in one county alone.
Greg London of the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that one levee broke Thursday along the Platte River, and another broke Saturday. He estimates that up to 400 houses and cabins in the area known as Hanson’s Lake are damaged, including many that are completely submerged. Another 100 or so homes are damaged elsewhere in the county.
The area is near where the Platte and Missouri rivers converge. A Missouri River levee nearby also breached on Thursday.
London says many of the damaged homes are likely ruined. He says that while the area has had flooding before, this year’s disaster is “unprecedented.”
RAIL SERVICE AFFECTED ALSO
Flooding along the Missouri River is causing long delays for Amtrak passengers.
The passenger rail service said Sunday that its Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, will have delays up to five hours because of flooding and rail congestion.
Amtrak says all Missouri River Runner trains will be canceled Monday. The service typically travels twice daily between Missouri’s two metropolitan areas.
The flooding Missouri River has damaged dozens of buildings at Offutt Aor Force base in Bellevue.
About one-third of the Base is under water. A spokeswoman for the base says 60 buildings, mostly on the south end of the base, have been damaged, including about 30 completely inundated with as much as 8 feet of water.
Among the buildings badly damaged are the headquarters building and a hangar.
Offutt’s runway is expected to remain closed until Tuesday afternoon, and numerous planes were flown to other bases as a precaution.
Airmen had been filling thousands of sandbags, but the effort has been halted.